What I am about to give you is a first, we’re not talking some heavy duty top secret stuff but what I will share with you today is information I was unable to find when researching Launch Academy myself. I will break down exactly how each day is structured at Launch Academy and give you a pretty good window into what it’s like to be attending classes here.
Each person starts their day a little differently at Launch. Technically, you are not obligated to be in the building until 9:38AM, yes. 9:38, not 9:30 or 9:45…9:38. Anyways, some people like to show up at 7 while others show up later. I would say on average people begin showing up around 8-8:30AM. Let’s proceed…
You are probably wondering why I started with Friday, no worries it will all make much more sense by the time you finish reading this. When we are released for the week on Friday evening we are given both reading assignments and homework (coding challenges). It can vary based on what material is going to be covered but on average we are given maybe 3-4 reading assignments and 1-2 coding challenges.
The material given in this weekend homework drop is for the following week. This is done to prime the pump, so-to-speak, and get you ready for the onslaught that is to come on Monday morning. You have a chance to digest the material as best you see fit and get yourself ready for the following week
Monday – Thursday
- 9:38AM – 10:30AM: Mentor Groups
First thing you do when you get in on Monday morning you begin your Mentor Group which starts at 9:38AM. There are 5 mentor groups each consisting of around 8 students (not positive). At around 9:15AM, your group mentor – mine is Nick Alberts (awesome dude), will assign presentations to the members of the group.
When I say presentations, don’t think High School presentations, it is merely one of us walking through our understanding of the reading or coding assignment from the night before, and we all as a group discuss what we think of it. This is an excellent opportunity to hear how other people approached a problem (very illuminating) and get feedback from your mentor about your own understanding. I find these to be EXTREMELY rewarding and useful.
There are usually 2 reading assignments that we go over and then we end it with whatever the coding challenge of the night was.
- 10:30AM – 10:45AM: Break
- 10:45AM – Noon: Morning Facilitation
These facilitations are simply amazing. I have gotten so much out of them this week, it is something I am always looking forward to in the morning. I would recommend getting to your seat a little early, if possible, and to get yourself a seat up front so you don’t get distracted.
Morning Facilitations are class-wide lectures on the material that you learned and covered the previous night. They are in a lecture format usually consisting of either a powerpoint presentation or live coding examples or even a combination of the two. After lecture is over there is a short Q&A for maybe 10 minutes or so. After morning facilitations are completed they release us (technically) until 1pm.
Lunch runs from the end of facilitations until 1pm. Now, this is basically just time for you to use as you see fit. As soon as facilitation is over, afternoon reading and coding assignments are released for the entire cohort which are due by the end of the ‘work’ day.
I typically check out the assignments after facilitation to get an idea of what is ahead and then dip out for a quick bite to eat and return maybe b and then spend the rest of the afternoon working on the afternoon assignments. I would say that around 80% of people group up in either 2’s or 3’s and the rest go off and do their own thing, it’s all a matter of preference and knowing how you learn best.
- 1:00PM – 2:30PM: Office Hours
Office hours are 20 minute blocks of time where students sign up to meet with staff to go over literally anything they want to discuss. Maybe you have trouble understanding an assignment and you need clarification, they can do that. Maybe you want to talk about how LOGAN was a seriously crappy movie…they can do that too. It is YOUR time to use as you see fit.
The way it works is like this: All students must sign up for office hours, once all time slots are filled up (usually 2 weeks worth…ish) the process repeats. These are 20 minute blocks of time.
Office hours differ from day to day among staff. That is to say, you will have a different staff member on ‘duty’ each day, and all office hours for that day will be with that staff member.
- 3PM – 4PM: Clinic
Think of clinic like a live coding version of morning facilitations. Clinic will typically cover the morning assignments. Again, assignments are released for homework,morning and afternoon.
During Clinic, a staff member will walk us all through whatever concept we are learning and engage all of us to solicit opinions on how best to solve the problem. In this way, we are kind of engaging in one giant group coding session.
I will say this, morning facilitations are crucial for me, I get a lot out of them and love them but clinics, at least thus far, have been hit or miss. If you aren’t sitting upfront it can be hard to follow the coding that is happening and you can easily fall behind. I have found that when this happens I put so much effort into staying caught up that I end up getting very little out of the clinic altogether.
Now, that being said, that does not mean that clinics are entirely useless – in fact they are a really great resource for me! All Clinics are both screencast and audio recorded and so after the clinic is complete, the instructor who gave the clinic will upload the screencast video with audio to Vimeo and from there you can walk through the whole clinic again, now THIS is what I am talking about.
I have been to every clinic so far, but I think I will discriminate a little more as to when to attend simply because I want to make the most of my time on campus. I know for a fact that I get a lot out of following along after the fact to the recordings, so I think moving forward I will stick to that and while clinic is going on I will focus on other readings or coding challenges. It is worth noting that Clinics are the only optional aspect of the curriculum during the week.
- ** Thursday Clinic:
Thursday Clinic is the one clinic that is different from the rest. Why? Because Friday is our system check which is our weekly test. As a way of preparing for the test on Friday, the instructor holding clinic on Thursday will recap all of the material from Monday-Wednesday/Thursday which will be on the system check.
Clinics on Thursday are, in my book, mandatory. You do not want to be skipping these, even if you understand the material well enough. They are indispensable for testing your knowledge and gauging where you are in terms of understanding. From talks I have had with both staff and alumni (more on that later) I have learned that around 80% or more of what is covered during weekly wrap up clinic will be on the system check! For this reason alone, I will say this – If you skip this clinic, you are doing yourself a disservice.
- 4PM – Onward:
After Clinic we are all given our assignments for the night. Like I said, they usually consist of 2-3 readings with 1 or 2 coding challenges. It is important to do your homework because you could potentially be called upon the next morning to go over the material and you don’t want to look like an idiot, now do you?
- Friday – System Check and Happy Hour:
Every friday from 9:30AM – 12:30PM we have what is called a System Check. System Checks are our weekly cumulative test based on what we learned that week. They are graded in the following way:
- 3 points – Exceeds Expectations
- 2 points – Meets Requirements
- 0 points – Fail
- 1 point – Makeup Point
If you fail, you are allowed take until Tuesday of the following week to complete the System Check. If you complete it, you are awarded with 1 point.
The entire On-Campus program is 10 weeks. System Checks run from weeks 1 – 6. Weeks 7 & 8 are for group projects and weeks 9 & 10 are for your individual breakable toy assignments.
In order to make it to graduation and have access to hiring partners on career day, you need to (along with completing a requisite amount of career services obligation) have a minimum of 10 points from your system checks. So, you can do the math for varying scenarios but you could potentially pass 4, fail 2 and then make up those 2 and still pass the course.
A word of advice, just stay calm and trust the system. Launch is committed to your success and want to make sure you are best prepared for each and every system check and by extension the wonderful world of Web development thereafter (I love alliteration). What this means is this, follow their advice and do not stress yourself out.
The meets requirements section is very straightforward and the instructions are very clear so as to eliminate any type of confusion about what the instructions are asking for. Exceeds Expectations are difficult and intentionally so. They are there to push you further, they are meant to be a stretch. Do not expect to get it every time, I wasn’t able to get it this time around but was during Ignition.
You are more likely to walk into a System Check over prepared than you are underprepared granted you are attending all classes and keeping current with all assignments, if you are slacking off this does not apply to you and you should rethink your objectives if this is the case.
Once System Check is complete a lot of us will dip out for lunch and socialize for a bit and discuss the test and how we all felt about it. After Lunch we again conviene for another Clinic, this time previewing the material to be covered the next week and is used as a precursor for the assignments to be released for the weekend.
Following this? Happy hour of course. We are encouraged by the Launch Staff to unwind and relax in however manner we so choose. Alcohol is allowed on the premises except for hard liquor. It was made abundantly clear to us that while we are encouraged to socialize and relax amongst one another that we are expected to maintain a level of professionalism while doing so.
Launch is treated by both students and instructors alike as a work environment. This is important because it helps us to more seamlessly transition into the real world.
Other Key Points
- Overall Atmosphere:
People typically work, like I said previously, in small groups. Naturally, people will find others they are most comfortable with and typically can be found pairing with the same people but at the same time we all kind of drift around whenever necessary to glean additional insight into how others are tackling the same problems.
- Pair Programming
Something Launch Academy really stresses is the importance of getting experience with pair programming, which is exactly what it sounds like – you pair up with someone else and you program…
From what I have learned thus far, pair programming is something that is currently receiving widespread fanfare and across the board adoption. While it is mostly new and ‘hot’, it looks really good to be able to tell a prospective employer that you already have experience in this.
Pair Programming has been shown to not only increase productivity and overall speed of workflow but dramatically cuts down on the amount of errors and increases the likelihood of your code working correctly and as intended on the first run.
- Wednesday: Mentor Night
This is just so, so, so cool. I really love this. Every wednesday starting at around 6PM, former Launch Academy graduates will show up, usually 3 or 4 alumni, and help out anyone in need of clarification or guidance.
I was able to get help from 2 alumni on a problem involving Sinatra and dynamic rerouting that I was having a really hard time understanding. I was having difficulties with not just the implementation but grasping the overall concepts. Both of them walked me through nice and slow and explained everything to me and then it finally clicked. It was extremely helpful
Much like office hours, assuming other students don’t have immediate questions for the visiting alumni, you can just BS with them. I have learned quite a bit about a variety of things ranging from what to expect on career day and forward to how each of our cohorts are different to what working in the actually ‘real’ world is like. Alumni are more than willing to dispense incredibly valuable advice for you that can be immediately applied.
- Guest Speaker / Panel Discussions:
Each week there is likely to be something that is hosted on campus and after hours, around 6pm or so and onward. It can be anything from a guest speaker to a local meetup or hackathon to panel discussions with people from the industry or former graduates of Launch Academy who offer advice, guidance and perspective on what lies ahead for all of us.
Of course, all of these are optional, but at times can be very useful depending on your objectives moving forward. My advice would be to prioritize a solid understanding of the material you are being tested on over any additional tips you may glean from an optional event like those listed above. You can’t use career advice if you barely know how to code, so keep that in mind.
- Launch Votes:
These are actually very fun, we were having a blast with it this week. Throughout the week, launchers are able to ‘nominate‘ fellow launchers for custom awards. These are light-hearted inside joke type things. For instance, you can nominate someone for best goofy looking hat or best accent. Whatever inside jokes your class has, this is your time to do it. Then on Friday at 4:30PM we all gather, hook up a computer to the projection screen and run through all the votes and determine winners.
- Lightning Talks:
Lightning talks are short and sweet 3-5 minute presentations on anything you want. You can talk about how much you love dogs or why you prefer Marvel over DC. Anything that interests you, that you also would like to share with the class is fair game. Afterwards we have a little Q&A for the speaker and then pass if off to the next person. We usually get in about 5 or so presentations on Fridays (only day for lightning talks). They are light-hearted, fun and a great way for all of us to come together and shrug off the stress of the week. Also, note that you are required to complete at least 1 lightning talk before graduating.
Because who doesn’t want to know what the food situation around Launch is like? Well, there are about a million different options within a very short walking distance of Launch. Anything from Italian, Mexican, food trucks, Pizza, Asian you name it. Speaking of which, I gotta start packing a lunch, this is getting expensive…
Every Friday morning before System Check, Sheriff Sean as we like to call him, who I believe is in charge of finances and overall operations of the building and facility, usually cooks breakfast for us. He is a super cool guy who just likes making people breakfast, who can argue with that, plus you need the brain food amirite?
The kitchen at Launch is literally nicer than my own kitchen at home, wtf. They have free coffee and tea in there along with a number of different appliances for cooking so feel free to bring your own food. They have this awesome all in one Starbucks coffee machine the size of a dresser that serves Dark Roast, Medium Roast and Hot Chocolate…all fresh. Pretty cool, I dont even drink coffee and I still keep finding myself going back to it throughout the day.
Well, that about covers it all. I will say that, while everyone’s schedule is a little bit different, on average people tend to show up around 8AM and leave around 6-7PM. Your milage is likely to vary based on any commitments that you may have outside of class.
A word of advice and something I have mentioned in previous articles is to do your best to clear your schedule for the duration of Launch as best as you possibly can, this way you can devote more of your time to truly understanding the concepts being taught.
I think that as tough as the idea of attending a Bootcamp may sound, and it is difficult, as long as you put forth an honest effort and devote your time and attention to the things that matter you will not have a problem completing the course.
Everyone in my class has varying talents as well as weaknesses. That being said, all of us have each other’s backs and I really mean that, nobody here has had anything negative to say about anyone else and it shows.
This is an overall very welcoming and relaxed environment (sans all the stress of learning a new professions from scratch in 10 weeks) where one can really dig deep and learn until their hearts content. I am really anxious, in a good way, to see where I will be in 10 weeks. Until then, adios amigos!
Here is some music for your coding pleasure: